Are you infected with Presenteeism?

by | Productivity

How often do you work with a headache, back pain, anxiety or just plain sick?

Presenteeism: Employees reporting to work when ill or not up to their usual level of productivity.

Are you a culprit or support an environment that unknowingly encourages this?

Presenteeism is a severe cost suck, with estimates on the annual cost of lost productivity to employee fatigue at $136-250 billion or 60% of the total cost of worker illness.

“Presenteeism, an employee who works at a lower productivity rate due to health reasons, results in an annual cost of $6,721 per employee. A common misconception among employers is that employees who are absent due to illness are a bigger threat, when in fact, presenteeism is 10 times as costly. Several studies have shown that the top contributors for presenteeism health conditions are anxiety, depression, migraines, diabetes, arthritis, and back and neck pain.” – Dr. Steven Hotze

How is Presenteeism worse? Your hacking cough and snotty nose mean you end up infecting others. What about your inability to focus, resulting in mistakes where you miss an extra Zero in that proposal or your migraine that makes you feel irritable, and you speak curtly to your new client or your manager?

Lockheed Martin Corp studied 28 medical conditions on worker productivity and determined that Presenteeism that included allergies, headaches, low-back pain, arthritis, cold, and flu, cost them $34 million. Allergies and sinus issues alone set them back $1.8 million!

Why is it so prevalent?

  • No or few paid sick days for hourly or part-time workers
  • Fear of losing their job
  • Fear of coming back to an already overloaded work expectation
  • Afraid to use a sick day in case they need to for a child or elderly parent
  • Need the money
  • Love the job so much they don't want to miss it
  • No one to cover for them or take their place (occurs most often in the healthcare field where one study showed as many as 80% of respondents had shown up to work sick)

The highest rates of presenteeism occur in welfare services, education, healthcare and those who work with the elderly. Also, jobs with more physical workload and stress see an increase. People who are workaholics or whose self-esteem is based on their performance suffer high rates. From a health perspective, one study showed those with a poor diet, no physical activity, and less emotional fulfillment suffered from higher presenteeism. Researchers have also noted that people with diabetes report higher levels than those without.

In my case, when I worked when I didn't feel well it was for two reasons. 1) My workload was already so high I toughed it out because I couldn't bear the thought of coming back to double. 2) I traveled frequently, and it was looked down upon to cancel a trip at the last minute (because no one schedules sick in advance!) or even worse, to get ill while on the road and cancel the appointment with the site. Once, I laid on the hotel bathroom floor all night, calling the front desk to bring me whatever pharmaceuticals and electrolyte drink they had. In the morning, when I called my manager to tell her I was sick, she instructed me to take an Immodium and get my ass to the site because my plane ticket had been so costly. My site? At a hospital, where I'm sure they were thrilled when I rolled in puny and bent over from the abdominal cramps and dry heaves.

My husband is a percussion instructor. When he has to cancel lessons, he can't make it up. He loses money, and his students miss an entire week of lessons. On the other hand, when he's not feeling well, he has to put up with 6-8 hours of drums, which results in noise fatigue even when he is feeling good.

Consequences of presenteeism include keeping yourself sick longer, making others sick, mental and physical burnout and fatigue.

If you suffer from Presenteeism, take off your badge. It does not impress anyone and it may even be irritating or hurting other people. If you manage people, encourage them to take the time they need to recover to work at their best. If you don't care so much about their health or welfare (who are you anyway?) at least think about the lost $$$ in productivity.

Know someone who could benefit from this post? Please forward it along.

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